Information about how to reach Benagil Cave, Tips, and Practical Travel Info. As of 2023, I have visited the Benagil Cave twice and had a different experience each time.
Imagine a beach that’s hidden from the rest of the world because it is in a cave. A perfect beach with soft golden sand that’s partially lit because of the hole on the top of the cave. That’s Benagil Cave in the Algarve.
Beaches are special but hidden beaches are more than just extra special. I am happy to say that I have visited quite a few because I always try to find one such beach when I visit a beach destination. When I do, I feel like a character out of The Beach movie.
Algarve’s Benagil Cave beach is one of those extra special ones. The only way in is by kayaking or paddle boating, which obviously adds a more elusive touch to this already amazing place.
If you didn’t know already, the Algarve region is in the South of Portugal and is a lovely coastal area. The thing that makes the Algarve coastline unique is the stunning rock formations.
In Portuguese, the Benagil Cave is called Algar de Benagil. The holes in the rock formations are called algares (or holes) and there are many of them. I did mention in my Seven Hanging Valleys post that there’s a hike that goes on top of the cliff inside which this cave is situated. You can see the holes in these cliffs from the top.
This post is about the best way of getting inside the cave from the water. Actually, there are many caves in this short stretch and they are collectively called the Benagil Caves, but in this post, we will mostly talk about the most famous Benagil Cave one with a hidden sandy beach. This one (below).
Benagil Cave has a hidden beach, where a little light falls dramatically because it has a hole on the top. Most of the cave is dark but gets lit up as the sun rises.
The shape and the direction of the light that falls from above keep changing as the day passes. It is like a natural skylight within a natural wonder adding to the wow effect of this already beautiful cave.
Where is Benagil Cave?
Benagil Cave is near Carvoeiro, which is a cute little resort town in Portugal’s Algarve region. It is between Portimão & Albufeira. It is 55 km away from Faro, which is the Algarve’s entry point because of the airport.
Benagil Beach comes just about in the middle of this hiking trail. Benagil Beach is the main beach of the Benagil village, and shouldn’t be confused with the Benagil Cave Beach. The cave beach is obviously the one that’s inside the cave!
Where to Stay to Visit the Benagil Cave
If you visit Algarve, then most likely you will set up your base in Albufeira, Lagos, Tavira, Sagres, or Portimão.
In order to visit the Benagil Cave, the best nearby destination to stay is Carvoeiro, where I stayed in June 2023. Another option would be the Benagil village. It is a small fishing village but I found it to be very boring because the main Benagil Beach is tiny and was full of seaweed.
Whereas Carvoeiro has amazing beaches, rock formations, and Algar Seco caves and it isn’t as touristy as other destinations of the Algarve.
So that’s why I suggest Carvoeiro because it is next to Benagil village and you can easily move between the two using Uber. From Carvoeiro to Benagil was EUR 7 on Uber for us, and it was just a 10-15 minute drive.
My first time in the Algarve was in 2022 and I picked Lagos because it is seriously stunning, has a low-key vibe, and historical old town. These three should be included in every Algarve itinerary.
If you want to be close to the Benagil cave, then you should pick Carvoeiro for your base. It is a little upscale in terms of hotels but I did find an amazing resort with an affordable apartment, it was at Rocha Brava Village Resort.
I did not want to stay in Carvoeiro in 2022 because I wasn’t looking for a resort destination but a place that had a bit of everything – beaches, hiking, viewpoints, restaurants, history, and a certain vibe, and Lagos is a bit solo traveler friendly.
If you don’t want to stay in Carvoeiro too, then you can easily make a day trip to see the Benagil Cave with a rental car or a tour.
Starting Point for Reaching Benagil Caves
Drive to Benagil Beach, or arrive here on a bus. Car rental is cheaper in Portugal as compared to the other nearby European countries as I mentioned already in my Portugal road trip post.
Based on my experience with how busy it gets here, arrive on Benagil Beach by 8:45 am to start the next step mentioned in the point below.
How to Get into Benagil Cave?
Let’s finally talk about how you get into Benagil Cave. As mentioned before, there are only two ways:
- Kayaking (I did this in 2022)
- Paddleboarding (I did this in 2023)
Do not swim to the Benagil Cave or the nearby caves that are collectively called Benagil Caves.
The swim looks easy but it is surprisingly difficult so there are often accidents. Each year at least two tourists die while attempting to swim to Benagil Caves. Please visit with a kayak instead.
Kayaking to the Benagil Caves is not only the most popular way to reach inside but also the easiest way. Stand-up paddleboarding is fun but it isn’t the easiest. I kept on falling from my SUP because of the waves but kayaking was a breeze.
Boats bigger than paddle boats and kayaks aren’t allowed to offload people near the cave anymore, so if you visit these caves on a big tour boat, then you won’t be able to swim to the cave and walk on the beach.
In order to reach the Benagil Cave beach, you will either need to pick a tour or drive to Benagil Beach and try to find a way to rent a kayak from there. I will talk about these options in detail below.
Can you reach the Benagil Cave with a Boat Tour?
Yes and no. Yes, you can reach the Benagil Cave on a boat but no you won’t be able to walk on the beach. The boats are not allowed to bring people on the beach – this is something a tour operator in Lagos told me. She mentioned that the only way to go inside is by getting on a kayaking or a SUP trip.
That’s true for even tours on small boats – they aren’t allowed to let people out of the boat to walk on the small beach inside the Benagil cave.
How to Pick Your Benagil Cave Tour?
Depending on where you will stay in the Algarve, you should pick a tour based on the departure point.
When you arrive in any part of the Algarve – be it Albufeira or Lagos or Portimão, you will see lots of shops in the main center or near the train or bus stations or in the Marina where they try to sell you a tour to see the Benagil cave.
The thing is, 95% of those tours will take you on a big boat, and big boats can only see the Benagil cave from outside. So, you will technically not visit the beach. You can’t leave the big boat so you won’t get to walk on the beach.
The only way you can go on the beach is if you pick a tour with kayaks, paddle boats, or SUP. After a lot of research and reading reviews on hundreds of sites that we found on the internet, we found this perfect tour for us. It wasn’t from Lagos but from Portimão. During my second visit, I did Benagil Cave Stand-Up Paddleboard (SUP) tour instead.
We were staying in Lagos but we reached Portimão in just 20 minutes with our bus. Portimão is easy to reach from anywhere in Algarve by bus or train.Book Benagil Cave Kayak Tour
This tour was excellent. Not only did we visit the Benagil cave, but we also visited some of the other caves around and they were all good. We also saw the famous Praia da Marinha, which is supposed to be one of the most beautiful beaches in Europe.
We had a very comfortable catamaran with a toilet. We had a staff of four people with us on the board who were our guides and kayaking lifeguards.
Other Benagil Cave Kayak tour options
If the above tour is booked out or if you’re not going to be in Portimao, then I have handpicked a few more tours for you:
- Benagil Cave Guided tour: It is a 2-hour kayaking tour that leaves from Benagil Beach.
- Benagil Kayak Rental: If you have enough kayaking experience, then you can rent the kayak and do it yourself. But be careful of the rocks at the entry of the cave.
- Benagil Cave Stand-Up Paddleboard (SUP): For me entering the Benagil Cave on a paddleboard was a lot of fun. Try it.
- Benagil Cave Sunrise or Sunset Kayaking: It is different from the others because it has super early or late start times so that you can avoid crowds. This also costs EUR 35 per person and starts from Benagil Beach.
- Algarve: Benagil Caves Guided Kayaking Tour: This is pretty similar to the first one on this list and costs the same – EUR 35. But they have 5 different time slots so that you can start super early or late to avoid crowds. It also leaves Benagil Beach.
Is it difficult to kayak to Benagil Cave?
Kayaking isn’t difficult because it is intuitive. You don’t need to know if from before to do it. I normally hate watersports but for me, kayaking is actually fun.
During my first visit in 2022, I did a kayaking tour with a bigger number. There were many kayaking newbies on the tour and they did pretty well when they kayaked the first time. And some of them didn’t even know how to swim! Yes, they all had life jackets on – whether you are a pro or a newbie, a life jacket is a must.
But I understand if you are nervous about it, I can sometimes be too. In 2023, my friend took a kayak and I took a paddleboard. She isn’t very experienced with kayaks but she did a good job.
If you do a tour then they will already give you instructions for kayaking. They will help you arrive on the beach by kayak, which in my experience is the moment when most people fall. Falling in the water isn’t something you should be scared of by the way.
The entry area of the Benagil cave is rocky (of course), so the only thing you should be scared of is falling out of your kayak and hurting yourself with the rocks. But, don’t let fear mess up your experience. A little bit of fear is okay for awareness so that you can keep yourself safe.
Kayaking vs Stand-Up Paddleboarding (SUP)
Honestly, I prefer SUP over kayak because I find it much more fun to balance while standing. Kayaking is easier and is something I have done many times.
The only reason I booked a kayaking tour and not SUP is that I didn’t find a tour that started from Lagos or Portimão. Also, SUP tours are more expensive. But if I didn’t have any money or commute restrictions, I would have picked up this below tour.Book Benagil SUP Tour
If you’d like to do stand-up paddleboarding to visit the Benagil cave, then check out this tour. This is a 2-hour tour that starts from Benagil beach and you can find one as early as 7:30 am, which is way before most people start to arrive here.
Not into Kayaking or Stand-Up Paddleboarding? Try a Boat Tour
Ok, I get it. You don’t want to kayak or go on a SUP or even swim to the cave. You would rather experience the beauty of the cave from the water and the comfort of your boat.
No worries, I get you and I can help you with a few boat trips where you can do just that:
- Benagil Cave on a boat from Portimão: This costs EUR 26 and starts from Portimão on a boat.
- Benagil Cave on a boat from Carvoeiro: This costs EUR 30 and starts from Carvoeiro. It also includes the famous Praia da Marinha.
- Benagil Cave Boat Tour & Dolphin Watching on a Speed Boat from Albufeira: This tour starts from Albufeira and costs EUR 34.
Please note: that you won’t be able to leave the boat, make swimming stops or enter the beach inside the Benagil cave. If you want to go to the beach or swim, then book a kayaking or SUP tour.
The Best time to do the Benagil Cave Tour
As a person who has done a morning tour and an afternoon tour, I’d say do the morning one. We started at 9 am from Benagil Beach and we were inside the cave pretty early before anyone else was there. And it was the high season – June.
Most of the tours leave in the morning at 10 am and 2 pm in the evening. Of course, most people opt for the 2 p.m. one. I did too the first time because I was all the way away in Lagos. The 2 p.m. tour that I did was also in the month of June.
Now that I have done both a morning tour and an afternoon tour, I’d say that the experience is completely different and a hundred times better when it is early.
The month of August is even busier so you should definitely pick a morning tour if you are visiting during the high season. Personally, I’d say that early summer is the best time to visit the Algarve.
Can You Visit the Benagil Cave without a Tour?
This is something that isn’t advertised but is definitely possible. Why should it be? After all, if you are an experienced kayaker or SUPer, you can enter the cave on a kayak or a paddle boat without a guide. Just arrive at Benagil Beach and rent a kayak or a paddleboard.
When in doubt, carry your own inflatable paddleboard – they aren’t expensive anymore and are around EUR 100 – 150.
Actually, I didn’t want to do it because I wanted a guide to be around me in case there was a danger of me smashing my head against the rocks.Book a Rental Car
This option may make sense if you are already going to rent a car to travel within Portugal. So get a rental car, drive to Benagil Beach super early, and rent a few kayaks or a stand-up paddleboard.
But if you rent a car just to visit the Benagil Cave, then do check the weather conditions in advance and the timings of high tide and low tide.
Pro tip: If you are doing this without a guide, then notice the people on a tour and which cave entrance they are taking. There are two cave entrances. The tour guides do this every day and know which entrance to take.
The cost of our tour from Portimao was 40 euros but the cost of the tour from Benagil Beach was 35 euros. So the difference is just 5 euros and if you rent a car just for this, then you will probably pay a minimum of EUR 30 per day and add EUR 35 for a kayak tour from Benagil Beach per person.
If you are driving to Benagil Beach and doing this tour on your own, then the advantage is that you get to spend a longer time inside the Benagil Cave and can also explore the other nearby beaches at your own pace. There’s of course the famous Marinha Beach nearby which is worth all the hype but also Carvalho Beach which is also on the Seven Hanging Valleys hiking trail.
Can You Swim to Benagil Cave?
Even if you are a strong swimmer, please don’t swim to Benagil Cave. As mentioned above, the swim is surprisingly difficult even though it appears to be easy.
Each year minimum of two travelers die while they attempt to swim to Benagil Cave. That’s why I feel it is my duty to inform you about the risks and discourage you from risking your life.
Where to Rent a Kayak for Benagil Cave?
I did a tour but you can rent a kayak from Praia de Benagil to reach Benagil Cave. The rental stand is right there on the beach and it opens up at 8:30 am during the peak season. They will give you life jackets too and some also have an optional add-on rental “dry bag”, which comes in handy while kayaking or SUPing.
If you aren’t confident about kayaking to Benagil Caves on your own, then here’s one of the tours that you can look at. For more tour options, look at the section above that’s named “Benagil Cave tour options”.
Final Thoughts on Visiting the Benagil Cave in Algarve Portugal
Visiting Benagil Cave may sound complicated but it isn’t. If you want to visit it then you shouldn’t let anything stop you. After all, there aren’t so many such places in the world. If you visit Portugal’s Algarve region then you should definitely do everything you can to visit the Benagil cave for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
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